As I write this, Arik Sharon is in surgery again because of a deteriorating condition. He may survive, but it seems foregone that even if he does, it will be as a shadow of himself.
As I write this, Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s 60 year old protege, and Shimon Peres, the last healthy active Israeli leader from Israel’s founding generation, are meeting to map out the future of Sharon’s party, Kadima, and essentially to determine – directly and indirectly – Israel’s future.
Already, questions are being asked about why Sharon has experienced this second stroke and why it’s been so harsh. Nobody will ever be satisfied with the conclusions, although it is clear that Sharon should have not left the hospital after the first stroke. He might have missed a couple of weeks of work and campaigning, but he would have had a better chance to actually benefit from an electoral victory.
In other news, the Pope, great Zionist that he is, was asked about Sharon.
Benedict’s comment was in response to a question about the situation in the Middle East, after Sharon suffered a massive stroke Wednesday evening that made his return to power unlikely and prompted widespread anxiety about the future of the peace process in the region.
“We pray for peace in the Holy Land, so that the Lord will grant them durable peace,” Benedict was quoted as saying by the Apcom and ANSA news agencies. However, Benedict did not refer directly to Sharon.
Ouch! I’m sure we’re going to hear some spin in a few days from the Vatican about how this is meaningless, just as we heard last time when the Pope neglected to include Israel in the list of countries victimized by terrorism.
There may be many reasons for this omission, not the least of which is the Vatican’s determined attempts over the past several years to reach agreement with the Israeli government about certain rights for their personnel and properties in Israel. The Israelis have been negotiating, but not with much enthusiasm and without agreeing to many of the Vatican’s demands. This played out a couple of days ago in an interview where a Vatican representative indicated that Jerusalem and its holy places are not secure in Israeli hands. Of course, it is also not secure in Muslim hands and would be safe, according to the Vatican, in international hands. I’m sure the Vatican has since become convinced, as they watched the Palestinian bulldozer ram through the Egypt-Gaza border and EU monitors leave the area fearing for their lives, that international monitoring is a wonderful solution to the freedom of access and worship that the vast majority of Muslims, Christians and Jews enjoy in Jerusalem under Israeli control.
In many ways, it is a testament to Sharon’s strong will that the Pope snubbed him. That stubborness and strength of conviction have guided Sharon well through the decades, although they have also been his downfall at times. Lebanon is probably the best example of that. And perhaps, so was going home to his ranch to work from morning to night instead of letting up for once in his life and taking a break at the hospital.
I am not hopeful that he will survive long in light of today’s deterioration which is related to cranial bleeding, but wish him and his sons all the best. I remember a time, as a child, when I read about his bravery in Israel’s early years and again in 1973. I also remember a decade later when he became a man whose politics and military maneuvers were anathema to me. I have come to view him with respect as a master tactician, and perhaps strategist. He read the situation in 2000 correctly, and has proven to be a man who knew how to adapt to the ultimate leadership role – a role that compelled him to seek compromises and difficult solutions to complex problems.
I don’t believe Sharon ever knew how to focus on anything other than Israel’s security and war, but he is a product of Israel’s circumstances. He has often stated that he would rather have been a farmer. Instead, he has given his life to fighting in the military and in politics. Now that he is fighting for his life, I can only recall with some sadness that a decade ago, Yitzhak Rabin was murdered and his loss harmed a nascent peace process.